THIS YEAR is a blur. Compared to the first three years, I felt like I aged, balancing acads and extra-curricular activities. For the past months, it was as if my life was nothing more but writing, compiling papers and research, proofreading articles, and reading reviewers. I go home and dive straight into bed, immediately feeling the weight under my eyelids, and dozing off the moment my body hits the covers. It provides a stark contrast to my first year self, who managed to read books late at night and burn the midnight oil.
It was literally weight lifted on our part as seniors, for gone are the days we are hunched in front of the computer, pressed to finish last-minute requirements. It is with a great joy to bid goodbye to caffeine-induced days, to the nauseous feeling caused by being literally tossed in a sea of papers and drowning in the seemingly tempestuous and never-ending waves of scholarly articles we tried digesting with the reliable help of the dictionary and the thesaurus. Now, one can only look back at these moments, as if they happened in another lifetime, and belonged to somebody else.
With thoughts of the future not a far off possibility, it becomes an unwelcome pressure to think about leaving the Flame and venture out of the familiar. I remember with vivid clarity the time I took the qualifying exam myself. Being a member of a campus paper back in high school, I assumed that being part of the faculty publication was a natural course to take. I arrived around lunch time, on a sunny Saturday, totally new on the concept of going to school on a weekend and that excited me greatly (only to get a class schedule that never had a Saturday class for the next four years). Forgetting my own, I borrowed a pen from a fellow exam taker and wrote a short story and reviewed F. Sionil Jose’s Tree. When I received the text message that I passed for interview, I skipped my English class to prepare. From writer to editor, I was on an arduous but fulfilling journey, learning from mistakes and eventually improving, as there is no other way but up.
Waiting for the grand day called “graduation,” I cannot help but wonder if somehow, someone will care about the footprints left behind, the traces of occupancy left on the seats, the classrooms we entered and the words printed on the pages of the publication, and if they have been worth somebody’s time, be it spared a glance or read thoroughly.
It can only be left in our imagination if our literary pieces have made an impact in someone else’s life, if it was worth the sleepless nights and endless mugs of coffee, romanticizing illnesses, visiting galleries, attending creative writing workshops, walking and trying to find oneself among strangers and old photos and perfume bottles and glasses of liquor and wine, wondering if “write drunk, edit sober” even works just to surmount the writer’s block. The literati has a term for the mania for writing; cacoethes scribendi. In itself it even sounds like an incurable disease, a curse that plagues the hands that cannot deliver the fathoms of the mind. There is a stereotype of the starving artist, the Western ideal projecting an image of writers hitchhiking to pinch pennies and settling on odd jobs to survive.
I even remember someone saying that writing pays small, and that there is no sustainable future pursuing a career there. And indeed, it is difficult to be passionate at a craft that does not guarantee where you will wake up next. However, the one thing I am sure I would be doing come ten, twenty years is writing. And that is the only thing I can leave myself at, the certainty that when I leave, I would remain to thine own self be true, quoting Polonius from Hamlet.
To the Letters Team, Philip, Dianne, Ynca, Meg, Andrea and Corheinne, we are, unfortunately, cursed with an affliction, bleeding with the pen and tormented by abstract visions that seem to be adamant not to be put down and concretized. I hope I was able to impart something that will further your growth as writers.
To Alvin and Ate Khaila, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be my better self and for believing that I can actually go beyond my limits, for to be honest, I thought I would not be able to handle Dapitan at all.
And a special mention to my other love, the Team. To those who will be left behind, Imee, Halee, August, Jez, and Gjeremie, continue the dream, remember the importance of tradition and excellence, and always strive to be your better selves.
It is with no regrets that I will leave, for all four years, it has been a labor of love.
Farewell to the Flame. In my memories you will always shine bright. F